Google Pigeon Update: What We Know After Week 1

pigeon update

It’s been a week since Google’s Local Search algorithm update was rolled out in the U.S. Since our last article on the subject a few SEO experts have weighed in, reporting any changes they’ve noticed and sharing their opinions about the update on various platforms. The algorithm is still in its early days so we’re bound to notice even more changes and tweaks in the next few weeks and months, before the roll-out becomes global, but here’s what they’ve picked up so far.

Local Listing Packs

You may be familiar with those convenient local listing packs that were becoming more common in Google SERP pages. They come in groups of 3 and 7, and are marked with location pin-points in a map displayed alongside them. These local listing packs were great if you searched for something like ‘Chinese Food’ because Google would usually return a few Chinese takeaways in your area, with a convenient map so you know where you’re going.

Now, with the Pigeon update, you’d probably expect to see more of these, but according to US SEOs, the opposite seems to be happening. Apparently, when you type ‘Chinese Food’ into Google, (under this new update) you’re unlikely to see the local listing pack unless you define an area of search in your query – for example, ‘Chinese Food Rivonia’ rather than just ‘Chinese Food’.

This suggests that the part of the search results page composition algorithm that determines when to serve local pack results has undergone a revision, but local listing packs themselves have not been removed.

Possible Implications

What this means is that when this rolls out world-wide, businesses may need to look at implementing PPC campaigns in the short run, in order to cover the immediate loss of traffic linked to local listing packs. For the long-term, they’re going to have to optimise their sites in order to rank higher for the keywords that would have triggered the local listing packs before the update.

Rankings Boosted For Directory Sites

In our last article about the update, we mentioned that directory sites such as Yelp had seen a boost in rankings just after the update rolled out. Immediately this seems like a step-back in terms of Google’s mission to return search results pages that are more relevant and useful because it’s almost like they’re displaying search results for other sites within Google search results.

In terms of business, this probably isn’t too much of a big deal. Users may not be able to access your actual website immediately though a SERP, but they will still be accessing information about your business through these directory sites.

It does mean though that it will be crucial for businesses to ensure that they have a presence on all the local directories for their industries. This means making sure that your address is correct on these directories and that you have a good business description written for them.

Make Sure Your Site Has Good Authority

It seems that the Pigeon update is closely tied to the traditional web search ranking signals. These are the good old SEO factors we’re all familiar with such as domain authority and backlinks.

In order to thrive under the Pigeon update, make sure that your site’s general SEO characteristics are stronger than your competitors. This means thoroughly researching your competitor’s sites and comparing content, checking their backlink profiles and seeing what keywords they rank for so that you can adjust your site accordingly.

Google+ Local Pages

As always, getting getter exposure on Google means playing along with Google’s game. In the case of the Pigeon update, a very important change a few businesses will have to make is to their Google+ Local pages.

Setting up a Local page will no doubt help your SEO regardless of the update. Local pages contain all the relevant information that makes it possible for users to find your business through Google Search. These pages are linked to your Google+ profile – something that Google has been trying to encourage for a while now.

Make sure that all the information on your Google+ Local page is correct and up to date. This includes your telephone number, address, area code, and most importantly the category that your business falls into.

Once again, that’s about all we know so far. As yet the algorithm isn’t affecting South African searches, but it’s always a good idea to be prepared for these sorts of things ahead of time. Until then, we’ll keep posting articles as more information comes to light about the update and when we find out about its roll-out in South African searches.